The Huntsville Item, Huntsville, TX

Local News

July 21, 2011

Athletes target of changes to HISD code of conduct

HUNTSVILLE — Minor changes to Huntsville High School’s Athletics Code of Conduct could mean major consequences for Hornets breaking the law.

The Huntsville Independent School District Board of Trustees on Thursday approved revisions to the language of three paragraphs in district policy that would expand the administration’s ability to punish students for illegal behavior — even if they had not been arrested or charged with an offense.

HISD Athletic Director Marcus Evans made the proposal to allow him to dismiss or suspend a student athlete if a school official or law enforcement officer observed the student participating in illegal activity.

Trustees approved it by a vote of 4-1.

Trustee Pamela Baggett provided the lone voice against the revisions, saying that she “strongly disagreed” with them.

Baggett said she was concerned about punishing athletes without due process and dropping them from a program that could be their only motivation for attending school.

Superintendent Dr. Steve Johnson clarified the intention of the revisions, which he and Evans said was to deter athletes from participating in illegal behavior that would misrepresent the athletic program or school.

Facebook photographs, and other types of hearsay comments from parents or other students will not be strong enough to get a student suspended, but, Evans said, such hearsay would be taken into account.

“If there is not absolute proof, then [the student will be] presumed innocent,” he said. “I’m not trying to change the policy to any great degree.”

This policy change also allows the athletic director to continue a suspension in those circumstances until an athlete’s legal procedures have been exhausted and charges against him have been dropped.

Evans added Texas High School Coaches’ Association policy states that it is unethical to allow a student with a pending offense to participate in athletics.

Johnson and trustee J.T. Langley also discussed having a social network policy in the code of conduct — not only for athletes, but for all students.

Trustee Tracy Stoudt said she was “110 percent behind the revisions.”

“I don’t believe in kids misbehaving, and I don’t believe in kids breaking the law,” she said.

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